Wheelie-bin killer appeal thrown out

Robert Chalmers killed Samantha Wright. Picture: Comp
Robert Chalmers killed Samantha Wright. Picture: Comp
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DOUBLE killer Robert Chalmers has lost an appeal claiming his 23-year prison term should not have punished him twice for murdering Samantha Wright and concealing her death.

Chalmers was found guilty of murdering Ms Wright and keeping her body in a wheelie bin at his Duddingston home for up to 17 months.

Sentencing Chalmers following his trial in May 2011, judge Lord Malcolm ordered him to serve at least 23 years for the “depraved and dreadful” murder of Ms Wright, three years of which he attributed to the second charge of covering up the crime. The judge also imposed a concurrent sentence of six years’ imprisonment for the second charge.

But lawyers for Chalmers – known to local children as Papa Smurf because of his white beard – argued the sentencing was unfair.

His legal team said Chalmers should not have been sentenced for murder and concealing Ms Wright’s body, then receive a separate term for the cover-up.The bid to have his sentence cut was thrown out by appeal court judges in Edinburgh, who ­dismissed the argument.

In his written ruling, judge Lord Gill said: “If any other offence of which the accused was convicted on the same indictment were to be irrelevant to the punishment part, a concurrent sentence would be in effect no sentence at all.”

The Crown Office had opposed the appeal, arguing that adjusting punishment for the murder conviction was “simply a mechanism to ensure that a penalty is served in respect of the other charges”.

However, Lord Gill said they would be willing to hear arguments over the fact the cause of Ms Wright’s death was not known. Chalmers’ lawyers ­contend the absence of a cause of death meant their client should have been sentenced on the basis there were no “unusual aggravating factors”.

Ms Wright was last seen at a Jobcentre in High Riggs on June 12, 2008, although she was not reported missing until January 2009 after failing to contact her family.

Hundreds of hours of painstaking work led detectives to CCTV footage from that day which sent police officers to Chalmers’ home in Magdalene Drive. A search on October 12, 2009 uncovered Ms Wright’s body. Chalmers served nine years of a life sentence for a murder in Renfrewshire in ­December 1973.